In Prospect‘s lead opinion piece this month, Trevor Phillips—chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and one of Britain’s foremost black political figures—explains why he believes Barack Obama’s emergence as a credible US presidential candidate has actually put back the arrival of a post-racial America.
Obama is, Phillips explains, both a charismatic and a ruthless figure, and one “whose African ancestors never endured transatlantic slavery.” Unlike “challengers,” such as Malcolm X, Obama is a “bargainer” who has tacitly agreed not use America’s history of white racism as a political weapon, and who in return expects his own race not to be used against him. Obama, Phillips argues, is a politician, not a saviour or even a liberator: his job is to win elections (which he may well do), but he is no harbinger of a revolutionary inter-racial harmony.
EDIT 1: As some of you may have noticed, the Independent are running a piece by Andrew Grice today reporting Phillips’s Prospect article, while the Times have coverage from Hannah Strange. To all and any who’ve arrived at this page via the papers, welcome—and do join in the discussion.
EDIT 2: As our publisher has noted in the comments below, those seeking a counterpoint to Phillips’s arguments should turn to Robert Reich’s piece in our current issue, which can now be read for free online—and can be discussed on the blog here.
EDIT 3: Trevor Phillips has responded to some of the criticism his article has received in a letter in today’s Independent.